By: Udeme Udoh
Over the last few years, polarized debates have ensued with respect to the relationship between China and Africa.
On the one hand, some people have accused China of what they termed neo-colonialism. These people advance their argument by pointing to the conditions that backed most of the loans and aid given to African countries by China, which they feel is unhealthy. In the same vein, some point to the negative effect of China’s cheap goods on the locally produced commodities in Africa, as well as the labour threat of the rising number of Chinese immigrants in African communities.
On the other hand, others argue that the China-Africa Relations (CAR) is a welcomed development. This set supports its argument with some undeniable facts. For instance, they point to the positive possibilities that Chinese products have brought to the poor citizens of Africa. They also point to the huge market that China affords Africa, and sometimes point to the possibility of the exchange of knowledge and technology.
Following these lines of arguments, one would ask, what should an ideal CAR look like or how can a more mutually benefiting relationship be achieved? These, and more, were the questions put before some of the scholars in the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria in order to listen to their views on the subject matter.
Thoughts from the University of Ibadan
Responding to these questions, Dr. Solomon Olakojo, a lecturer in the Department of Economics recalled that CAR dates to about 320BC, although bilateral relations started in the early 1900’s when China became a trading and investment partner with many African countries. He believes that China needs natural resources while African countries are looking for infrastructure, hence, a demand and supply relationship has evolved between the two and appears to be mutually beneficial on face value although it is not. He went further to admit that an ideal CAR can be achieved if Africans have an objective for entering into specific relationships with the Chinese, which will serve as a basis for measuring outcomes.
Aside from having an objective in place, Dr Olakojo added that African leaders must ensure proper negotiation and critical analysis of proposals brought by the Chinese in order to foster a win-win situation. He explained that African governments must also ensure that the necessary mechanisms are in place to check noncompliance with local laws, as there are reports of Chinese firms violating environmental and labour laws across Africa. He added that there is a need for adequate policies to protect the local economy. For instance, although some African countries have policies to ensure that Chinese firms in Africa employ locals, African must also put in place labour-friendly policies like adequate allowance and compensation for hazard.
Other respondents, which included Agbaje Orire and Mariam Akintayo, students of Economics, Moses Aweda, student of Mathematics, and Akibu Mutiat, student of Educational Management and Political Science all affirmed that an ideal CAR should be mutually beneficial. For this to be possible, Mariam and Moses maintained that the youth must be adequately informed in order to take part in the relationship processes and the government must be proactive and futuristic in approach as well as prioritize research and development. The duo expressed optimism that if ideal conditions prevail, CAR will promote growth and development in Africa through the exchange of knowledge and technology.
While we continue to listen to all arguments and opinions on this subject, it is important to note that no country can succeed in isolation as the world operates on the principle of interdependency. This, notwithstanding, it is important for every country to ensure fairness, equality, and respect in their relationship with one another.
Udeme Udoh is the student ambassador of Africans on China at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He majors in Educational Management and Economics and serves as a Tutor to students in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Mathematical Economics at the Faculty of Education through which he received the most dedicated tutor from the Nigeria Universities Education Students’ Association (NUESA) University of Ibadan award. Upon graduation, Udeme is looking to build a global business brand in tech-photography and secure an MBA scholarship.